Holy shit was I more than mildly surprised at how thoroughly entertaining this film was. Kingsman: The Secret Service is one of those rare examples of me going in to a film with low expectations (based on a moderately cheesy-looking trailer) and, for some idiotic reason, mistakenly thinking it was rated PG-13. Two minutes into the picture and two "fucks" and a head shot exit wound later, I thought to myself, "Holy crap, this movie just used up every bit of its PG-13 rating." Nope, it's totally R. R for "rad" (fuck you, I said it - I'm from the 80s).
Director Matthew Vaughn has yet to make a motion picture I disliked. Kingsman has the tone and feel of his previous two films (X-Men: First Class and Kick-Ass), both in narrative flow and in knack for creating characters that are distinctively unique, charming, and funny in their own ways. Based on the comic book "The Secret Service", Kingsman stars Colin Firth as a lead member of a British spy organization who recruits a street kid (Taron Egerton, whose character's name "Eggsy" comically mirrors his real life name) into a competitive training program to find new members for the organization. All of this occurs during the rise of a Steve Jobs-like madman named Valentine (ironic that the film opened over Valentine's Day weekend) played by Samuel L. Jackson (with a hilarious lisp and a knack for constantly changing hat colors), who plans on doing worldwide bad-guy business through the use of cell phones, as would be expected from a megalomaniacal villain in a James Bond-ish atmosphere.
The film has many James Bond overtones, and it makes no qualms about hiding it. What the film does extremely well is in keeping you engaged and constantly entertained, filling its screen time with good humor, unique action, and well-shot fight scenes (the last part of which I can be most appreciative of, given how poorly shot some action films have been over the past decade). Matthew Vaughn also has a great ear for music, opening the film with Dire Straits' "Money for Nothing", and filling a riveting (yet disturbingly-violent) action scene with Lynard Skynard's "Free Bird" in what almost feels like its entirety given how long the scene creatively lasts. In both instances the music both sets the tone and gives the audience the right state of mind on how the film should be taken - NOT seriously. Just like a Bond flick.
Colin Firth is excellent as operative Harry Hart, aka "Galahad", who plays the Obi-Wan mentor role to Eggsy. Michael Caine as the leader, appropriately nicknamed "Arthur", is also happily in the movie for more than just a scene or two. What was really pleasant to see was actor Mark Strong in a good guy role for a change. As "Merlin", Strong plays the leader/drill instructor to the new recruits, and has a daft hand at teaching Eggsy important rules of the spy game in the face of death.
Kingsman is highly entertaining and a visual surprise, with a payoff that rivals the creative audacity of the Roger Moore-era Bond flicks, with the heavy-handed violence of the Daniel Craig Bond films. The film is pretty self contained, but leaves avenues open for future installments - and rightfully so.
Add: Kingsman: The Secret Service is one of the few films released in the past year that is positively a purchase upon its Blu-ray release. Highly re-watchable.